It has been 50 years since the last and only time a Cowboy State U.S. Representative lost a primary campaign

In the Republican primary on Tuesday for Wyoming’s at-large U.S. House seat, freshman Liz Cheney easily defeated her two challengers – oil field worker Blake Stanley of Cheyenne and cowboy Rod Miller.

Cheney was renominated with 68 percent of the vote with Miller taking 20 percent and Stanley 12 percent.

The victory marked the 20th consecutive successful renomination bid by a sitting Wyoming U.S. Representative dating back to Democrat Teno Roncalio in 1972.

Overall, Wyoming U.S. Representatives seeking reelection have now won 50 of 51 renomination bids since statehood.

The only sitting member of the nation’s lower legislative chamber from the Cowboy State to lose his or her party’s nomination was GOPer William Henry Harrison in 1968.

Harrison, a direct descendant of Presidents William Henry Harrison and Benjamin Harrison, had served five terms in the U.S. House across three interrupted stints from 1951-1955, 1961-1965, and 1967-1969 but lost the 1968 Republican primary to geologist and former RNC executive committee member John Wold.

Wold defeated Rep. Harrison by 2.2 points in a five-candidate race with a plurality 49.2 percent.

Since Harrison’s loss, incumbents from the nation’s lower legislative chamber have rattled off 20 consecutive victories in Wyoming:

  • Democrat Teno Roncalio: 1972, 1974, 1976
  • Republican Dick Cheney: 1980, 1982, 1984, 1986, 1988
  • Republican Craig Thomas: 1990, 1992
  • Republican Barbara Cubin: 1996, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006
  • Republican Cynthia Lummis: 2010, 2012, 2014
  • Republican Liz Cheney: 2018

Each of these primary wins came rather easily – each decided by at least 20 points.

Harrison is not the only Wyoming U.S. Representative who did not leave office on his own terms, however.

Over the decades, incumbents were defeated in the general election seven times: Republican Clarence Clark (1892), Democrat Henry Coffeen (1894), Republican Frank Mondell (1896, in his first stint), Democrat Paul Greever (1938), Republican Frank Horton (1940), Democrat John McIntyre (1942), and William Harrison (1964, in his second stint).

Nine representatives chose not to seek renomination and ran for or were appointed to another political office: Republican Charles Winter (ran for senate in 1928), Republican Vincent Carter (ran for senate in 1934), Republican Frank Barrett (elected governor in 1950), William Harrison (ran for senate in 1954), Republican Edwin Thomson (elected to the senate in 1960), Democrat Teno Roncalio (ran for senate during his first stint in 1966), Republican John Wold (ran for senate in 1970), Republican Dick Cheney (appointed U.S. Secretary of Defense in 1989), and Republican Craig Thomas (elected to the senate in 1994).

Wyoming at-large U.S. Representatives have chosen not to seek reelection or another office just four times: Democrat John Osborne in 1898, Democrat Teno Roncalio in 1978 (during his second stint), Republican Barbara Cubin in 2008, and Republican Cynthia Lummis in 2016.

Wyoming, which has the best track record of electing women to the U.S. House in the nation in recent decades, is poised to elect a woman to congress for the 13th consecutive cycle.

Cheney will be opposed on the November ballot by Democratic geologist Greg Hunter.

Follow Smart Politics on Twitter.


  1. Nikoli Orr on August 22, 2018 at 3:57 pm

    1. A 32% non-incumbent vote: This may be seen as part of a pattern of a larger than expected number of votes that have been cast against incumbent (GOPper) Congressmen and -women in primary elections since at least the 2013-’14 period. Still, the underwhelming showing, particularly for someone who is so well-known and with just token oppositions, is nothing to brag about.
    2. “…just four times… Roncalio in 1980…” As alluded to earlier in the report, Teno in fact retired in 1978, rather than seek a sixth “interrupted” term. However, given the antipathy towards President Carter by the clear majority of the electorate there and then, he might not have won in either the ’78 or the ’80 cycle even had he run.

  2. Dr. Eric Ostermeier on August 22, 2018 at 4:06 pm

    RE #1. Agreed, though i suppose compared to her 39% (non-incumbent) victory in 2016 and Cubins’ 55% and 60% primary showings before her last two terms, Rep. Cheney is not too distraught over her showing. RE #2. Corrected above – thanks.

  3. Dr. Eric Ostermeier on August 22, 2018 at 4:08 pm

    Cheney can also brag she performed better than Sen. Barrasso’s 64.9 percent – the least support ever shown a Wyoming U.S. Senator in a primary in 30 cycles.

Leave a Comment